Monday, June 24, 2024

Bat conservation focus of Hamilton conference

Conservation professionals from across New Zealand will converge on Waikato this week for a conference focussed on the protection of native bats/pekapeka.

Bat Hui 23, to be held at Narrow’s Landing event venue just south of the city over the next few days, will draw more than 100 attendees including scientists and resource management specialists whose roles involve work to protect the secretive and mysterious winged mammals.

It is the first time the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Bat Recovery Group (BRG) has hosted the conference.

DOC Ecology Technical Advisor, Jess Scrimgeour says the event follows the publishing of the latest official threat classification for New Zealand’s two bat/pekapeka species last week.

“New Zealand’s native bats have a growing profile as people become more aware of the threats they face, and how and why they need protection,” she said.

“Our conference will cover the latest research on the species, survey and monitoring work to understand more about the bats, as well as discussion on predator control methods and the various mitigations available to protect bats.”

Other topics to be covered by conference speakers include the impact of wind farms on the winged mammals, the ‘social organisation’ and singing of male short-tailed bats, and the occupation of artificial roosts by bats found in suitable habitat in Hamilton.

Ms Scrimgeour says while few New Zealanders will ever see bats due to the animals’ largely nocturnal lifestyle, they are found throughout the country, particularly where there are large ancient trees suitable for them to roost inside.

Hamilton is one of a small number of urban areas where bats are known to live, and are supported and protected by conservation agencies and community groups.

Efforts to raise the profile and protection of New Zealand’s bats have increased in recent years as more people become aware of the threats the animals face, and scientists – including DOC staff – share more research and science.

Last year, DOC’s Kerry Borkin published research confirming what scientists had long suspected – that domestic cats were preying on and eating native bats where the felines roamed in and around bat habitat.

Also in 2022, Hamilton Zoo – supported by DOC – successfully rehabilitated an adult female long-tail bat which had been attacked by a cat, and found by a member of the public.

Ms Scrimgeour says it’s an exciting and interesting time to be working on bat conservation, and the hui near Hamilton will allow those involved in bat protection to share knowledge.

“Developing our understanding of the animals is crucial to our ongoing conservation efforts, and by bringing together professionals involved means we can ensure we’re all across the latest information and using it to drive our work,” she said.

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